This article has pained me as a former garment manufacturer in more ways than one to write and to see where Barbados has come from as a garment export manufacturing country to the manufacturing of garbage in terms of producing high-quality garments. Back in the day as far back as in 1983, Barbados had over seventy-nine knowledgeable garment manufacturers and a workforce of over fourteen thousand workers employed in the industry.
Most garment factories back then employed a sewing machine mechanic, sometimes more than one depending on the size of the factory and the volume been manufactured especially the larger factories. The same was true for in-house pressers to press each garment as it was being constructed since critical areas of each garment required pressing in order to maintain proper shape, fit and finishing.
Last week I accompany a parent to one of Bridgetown leading department stores that sell school uniforms to give some advice on the purchasing of their son’s school uniform, I stood there horrified in a trance looking at the garbage for uniforms on the racks and could not grasp or believe at what I was seeing for uniforms especially the girls uniforms. It is no wonder why Barbados does not have a thriving garment industry or the workforce, during my forty-five years plus in the garment industry as a manufacturer, trainer, and teacher, have I ever seen such crap as far as quality is concerned. I am still trying to come to grips with what is being produced and the extravagant prices that the public has to pay for the crap.
When one looks at the finish of these uniforms including the sizing, it is evident that the manufacturers of these uniforms do not employ an in-house sewing machine mechanic or a presser or pressers in their establishments and in most cases have a patternmaker. All the uniforms on the racks were puckering at the seams, stitching too taught, wrong seam allowances, hem threads showing on the outside of the garments and it was quite evident that the garments were not pressed and looked unfinished. Fabrics and threads come in different weights and sizes as well as needles and every time you are going to stitch a different piece of fabric, the correct needle size has to be used and the needle tension has to be adjusted as well as the number of stitches per inch for the size of the thread and fabric, otherwise you will have the problems with puckering and threads showing on the outside of the garment.
It is a known fact that one of the main factors that destroyed our garment industry during the declining years in the 80’s and 90’s beside the concession issues with the government was that most of the factories did not have a patternmaker. Unfortunately, there were only two professional patternmakers/graders in Barbados, one was involved in teaching and the other was involved in their own business. In order for any garment manufacturer to survive and operate a successful garment business, they have to have an in house patternmaker/grader unless they buy into these services as well as other services that they can buy into.
Like everything else, rules and laws govern the garment industry in terms of quality control and where shortcuts will ruin the final outcome of a garment. When it comes to sizing a garment it is critical that buttonholes are spaced correctly, correct size and positioning of pockets, collar size and lengths and overall fit. The purchasing of North America or European patterns and adjusting them will not work here for Barbadians or the wider Caribbean except for a small percentage of people is because of body structures and types. These patterns are drafted for white people whose body compositions are completely different to black people although everybody falls into a particular size. Let me reiterate here, foreign-made clothes are manufactured for white people who have a shape more like a pencil and not for black people whose waist tends to be smaller and have very large hips.
Most factories rely on foreign patterns and try to make adjustments to them since they are not any professional patternmakers or patternmaking businesses around. In any case, the local manufacturers would not seek the services of any of the two local patternmakers, because that is how we treat our own and would not want to pay them the same fees that would be charged by a foreign patternmaker. It is unfortunate that Barbadians have to pay these exorbitant prices for all this crap and it is time that Barbadians start paying for quality and service.